Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking


Posted by Possum Comitatus on May 14, 2008

It’s the only way to describe what the ALP has done to the Coalition with the politics of the budget.

This became fairly obvious when Turnbull turned up repeatedly on the telly last night saying “it’s a bad budget because if you add up the cuts to the Howard programs, and subtract the increases in spending for the Labor programs, then you take into account the growth in tax receipts, then you look at etc etc” – by which time I was yawning and I’m a political junky and an economist – Joe Public has no chance regardless of how true any of it might be.

They’ll simply see a $21 billion figure that’s abstractly large enough to be impressive on the one hand, and pointy headed market types on the TV saying how good the budget was and that inflation won’t be stoked on the other.

The target here was the mortgage belt middle income demographics, and when the headline figures are combined with the $55 billion dollar support package for “working families” (another number so arbitrarily large as to be impressive) – complete with the tables in the papers and the graphics on tonight’s news showing how much better off these folks, particularly those using childcare will be per week, well it’s a political slam dunk.

The ALP has taken a large step towards changing it’s perception of being a competent economic manager with the public in the only real demographic that matters on this question, and the Coalition isn’t doing themselves any favours with their response. Turnbull’s waffle and Nelsons “we agree with means testing except for the things that have been means tested” spiel is a rhetorical road to nowhere, whether all babies are equal or not.

The other big electoral play in the budget was Labor’s attempt to reframe the long term nature of Pork. Howard’s random, blatant and often incoherent acts of electoral bribery that were starting to get up the nose of the electorate have been replaced with the Three Little Piggies.

Infrastructure, health and education funds.

Come election time there will still be pork – undoubtedly mountains of it, but it will be pork with a nicer story, Babe rather than Razorback if you will.

With the next two and a half years filled with a narrative on the importance of the future; future productivity, the need for infrastructure, the need for better education facilities and the need for more hospitals and healthcare services – when the pork starts getting doled out it will still be pork, but an explainable, planned and (we can only cross our fingers here) a more productive kind of electoral pork.

The Three Little Piggies are just about three election campaigns right there.

The electoral dangers for Labor on the other hand are still many – unable to crunch through infrastructure, health and education reform over a reasonable time period probably being the largest, yet that’s more a longer term drama for the next term rather than this one. But there will be people peeved at the Baby Bonus no longer being a lump sum, high income earners might give the ALP a bit of stick and the day to day political blow ups will always be circling.

But this budget doesn’t give the Coalition any obvious routes to make inroads into a popular new government. Promises were fulfilled, surpluses produced, tax cuts delivered and a coherent narrative produced that will allow nearly everything the government does in the near future to sound like it’s part of a plan that Australia voted for in 2007.

No wonder Rudd and Swan are smiling.

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22 Responses to “Snookered”

  1. Thomarse said

    Glad to see the education funding, including a bit more money for those computers.

    BTW Piers Akerman doesn’t like the budget, who wouda thunk?

  2. Catherine said

    On the whole I thought it was a good budget. And now I’m really beginning to worry about the future state of our democracy. If the plans outlined last night are implemented well they will be Very Good Things, people have been crying out for the kind of nation building that Rudd seemed to be laying the foundations for, but as seen in the states a weak, absent or insane opposition does tend to mean that incompetence and inertia take over the government. Budgets on big projects blow out and corruption creeps in. Human nature trumps ideology and a government of any stripe needs a sword hanging over its head if it is to be really effective. I’m a left of centre voter but I find myself praying the conservatives get their acts together soon and deliver a good reply.

  3. Rudi said

    Any description of the budget need refer to the fate of the artist formerly known as the Treasuer Peter Costello. Yesterday he displayed the self discipline and tact of a Victorian Liberal party office worker when he turned on journalists with these rants recorded in the Daily Terror:

    I reckon’ he’s been watching too many Ben Stiller movies in his free time.

  4. Rudi said

    Well I stuffed up the last post

    The bit in the box is my boom boom point and the quote from the Daily Terror was meant to be:

    Mr Costello flagged his intention to seek a career outside politics a day after the November 24 election loss.

    But with Dr Nelson’s leadership under threat from poor opinion polls, rumours have repeatedly surfaced that Mr Costello is being urged to take over.

    He would not answer questions about his future today but denied he was being coy.

    He bristled when Sky News political editor David Speers suggested that he knew the speculation was damaging the party.

    “Oh, do I? Well you say it is. Why don’t you interview yourselves?” Mr Costello said, putting on a mock deep broadcast voice. “You know, ‘David Speers – it’s damaging.’ ‘Is it?’ ‘I say it is.’ ‘No it’s not.’

    “I’ve got to say to you that after dealing with you people for 20 years I just don’t feel that I have to be at your beck and call.”

    Other journalists pointed out that he had called the doorstop.

    But it was veteran Fairfax journalist Michelle Grattan who drew his ire when she said he appeared sensitive on the topic.

    “Oh I’m sensitive am I Michelle? I’m sensitive,” he said to the reporter.

    “I’m standing here looking so sensitive aren’t I? Furrowed brow, worried – how sensitive do I look Michelle? You ought to go and get a new prescription.”

    Michelle Grattan wears glasses

  5. Thomarse said

    You almost feel sorry for Costello these days. Almost.

  6. El Nino said

    I liked the story about the coalition asking hard questions about where the money for pandas has gone. Its up there the ‘every baby is sacred’ line from Nelson a few weeks ago about means testing. Not only snookered. Pants’d.

  7. David Richards said

    Costello just demonstrated what he’d been doing every budget day since ’96 – turn up at Parliament House and pretend to be Treasurer. Aquaman has been looking very confused and doing a Janus impersonation. The clone gibes in QT were a hoot.

  8. Kymbos said

    I’d like to see the footage of that Costello exchange if anyone can direct me to it…

  9. Possum Comitatus said

    Kymbos – best I can find:

    It has the Speers joke, but doesn’t have the Grattan crack.

  10. Kymbos said

    What a tit. I want to see that Gratton piece.

    My favourite youtube on Costello:

    Actually, I think that’s my overall favourite video and favourite moment in politics. Sorry if it doesn’t hyperlink, but it’s worth the cut and paste if not.

  11. paul said

    Nice one pistol Pete.

    Turnbull was blody awful on the box in reply, it made Swan’s delivery look 110% better than it was.

  12. David Richards said

    I have learned that a production of Swan Lake is to be staged soon in Canberra. After last night, it may have to compete with an alternative version – Wayne out on Lake Burley Griffin doing the walking-on-water thing

  13. […] Ps: As I mentioned, there’s a plethora of budget commentary around the shop today, but let me just recommend two posts – both by Possum – on the end of me-too-ism and how the opposition have been snookered. […]

  14. James said

    I doubt the wealthy who are loosing baby bonusm FTB-B and paying a bit extra on a luxury car will cause trouble for Labor. Few voters in those categories are Labor voters, and I think the average person has a very strong sense of not giving more cash to those already rolling in it.

    Labor has made the sensible choice to deliver a good (and just policy), which spares the average punter some pain, and the only cost is pissing off those who never vote for you. a good move all round!

  15. David Richards said

    Screw the doctor’s wives!

    If you are on 150K or more and can’t manage – you are as bad an economic manager as JWH & Co

  16. Andos said

    Snookered, all right.

    Well and truly wedged, too:

    Coalition prepared to block alcopop tax

    I can’t wait to see them justify this one. Is any part of the electorate going to see this from the Opposition’s point of view??

  17. […] Mark Bahnisch continues the major thesis of the Budget commentary over at LP – that Labor under Rudd has deliberately undercut the Howardian habit of government according to the rhythms of the news cycle, or at least the rhythms of the newspaper op-ed cycle, and that this has left the journalistic pundits floundering as to where to pitch their columns just as much as it has left the Opposition floundering on where to pitch their spin. […]

  18. josh lyman said

    Is it just me, or is this threat to block the budget over luxury car and alcopop taxes (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/15/2245151.htm) the dumbest form of political suicide the Libs could manage?

  19. David Richards said

    new theme song for the Libs – Paul Kelly’s “I’ve done all the dumb things” … they just wrote a new verse

    We’ve blocked some bills
    That made us look dills
    We’ve done all the dumb things

  20. stevet said

    I agree with you Andos. I can’t wait to see the “Alcopos Double Dissolution” election. What a hoot that would be!

  21. 2 tanners said

    But Shanahan still doesn’t get it. Nelson’s pitiful response (you haven’t taxed alcopop competitors, plus 5c reduction on petrol excise) is great news. for labor.

    “Lib policies promote global warming”

    “Libs still live in pork barrel past”

    “Libs defend teen binge drinking”

    Makes poor old Chairman Sniff look merely boyishly irresponsible, as compared to his full grown prat colleagues. And it’s not good. We will regret it if no serious opposition appears. “I have seen the future and it is New South Wales” is not a rallying cry for either side of politics.

  22. […] give you one. Go read this Glen Milne piece from the Sunday tabloids, and tell me what it adds to Possum’s summary? For mine, the major differences are that it’s three days later, two bucks dearer, and less […]

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